By Jeremy Gottlieb Patriots Daily Staff
In the off-season, Eagles coach Andy Reid said that Donovan McNabb would be the team’s starting quarterback this year. Then he traded McNabb to the Redskins. After McNabb’s replacement, Kevin Kolb, was knocked out of Week 1’s game against Green Bay with a concussion and Kolb’s replacement, Michael Vick, played great, Reid said Kolb would still be the team’s starter as soon as he was healthy enough to do so. Then, after Vick played one of the best games of his career last week against Detroit, Reid said Kolb would still be the team’s starter and that he’d be back under center this week at Jacksonville.
Then, the next day, Reid named Vick the team’s starting quarterback.
Anyone who follows this space knows that I’m not a particularly big fan of Reid. He has a habit of always doing just enough on the sidelines to kill his team’s chances in big games, as his 1-5 career record in NFC Championship games will attest (that one year his group did win the NFC title, they then lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots in the McNabb Puking in the Huddle Game). The guy has never won anything in 12 years at the helm, yet skates every year and is for whatever reason regularly spoken of as one of the league’s top coaches. All of this is why it is such a surprise to me, even a shock, that he’s made the right decision here, even if it cost him his credibility with not just Kolb, but every single media member he will ever have to deal with as coach of the Eagles or anyone else.
Vick may still not be a good quarterback – he wasn’t really when he played for Atlanta, he was just described as such because he routinely made wildly athletic plays and could throw the ball 80 yards in the air (and really, who cares about winning as long as you can do that sort of stuff, right?). But he’s the best quarterback for the Eagles right now. The team has responded to him and his leadership. He has played outstanding in the one and a half games since Kolb’s injury. And Kolb, despite being given the keys to the car and a fat contract extension, still has little to no experience. Reid knows that it’s more important to the Eagles organization and to his own career prospects for the team to win sooner rather than later. If Vick plays and they win, Reid’s a genius. If Vick plays and he sucks, just throw Kolb back in there (though that will be much easier said than done given the fact that Kolb probably wouldn’t trust Reid to tell him it’s raining while standing in the middle of a downpour after all this). But if Kolb goes back in now and the team sucks, Reid looks really bad and has also run the risk of losing Vick.
Listening to Reid talk about how Kolb is totally on board with the decision and how he will still be a great quarterback who will win championships for the Eagles made me laugh (first off, if Vick plays well, Kolb will never play for the Eagles again and second, what the hell does Reid know about winning championships?). But he deserves credit here for making the right call even if he lied through his teeth about a hundred times to about a hundred people in doing so.
This Week’s Five Best Teams
1. New Orleans: Another fast start gave way to another nail-biter on Monday night against the hungry 49ers, who made up a nine-point deficit and an eight-point deficit before Drew Brees and the Super Bowl champs turned in a textbook, two-minute drill and won 25-22 on a field goal at the buzzer.
2. Green Bay: The majority of the attention paid to the Packers revolves around their explosive, weapon-heavy offense. Well, their defense is dirty, too. Linebacker Clay Matthews had his second straight, three-sack day in the Pack’s 34-7 blowout of the Bills.
3. Pittsburgh: Who needs a quarterback when you have a defense like the Steelers? Led by linebackers James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers forced the Titans into seven turnovers (three picks, four fumbles), held star back Chris Johnson to 34 yards on 16 carries, scored the team’s only TD and overcame just seven first downs and 127 total yards by the offense in a 19-11 win.
4. Houston: It looked like a classic letdown scenario for the Texans after their huge win over the Colts last week when they trailed the Redskins 27-10 with three minutes left in the third quarter. But then Matt Schaub, who passed for 497 yards and three TDs on an astounding 38-of-52 passing, took over. Schaub found favorite target Andre Johnson for the tying score on fourth-and-10 with 2:10 left, leading to Houston’s first overtime win in franchise history.
5. Miami: The Dolphins also did it with D, picking interception machine BrettFavre three times and adding a forced fumble while throwing in a goal line stand against Adrian Peterson in a 14-10 win in Minnesota. No one’s said much about Miami thanks to all the hype surrounding the Jets , but don’t be surprised to see the Dolphins right there all season in the fight for the AFC East.
This Week’s Five Worst Teams
1. Cleveland: Two quarterbacks, two just as lousy seeming opponents (Tampa, Kansas City), two losses, two more weeks closer to Eric Mangini finally being unemployed as an NFL head coach.
2. Buffalo: Looking for a “spark,” the woebegone Bills and their 17 points in eight quarters benched fourth-year bust Trent Edwards in favor of another go-around with Harvard alum Ryan Fitzpatrick, just in time for a trip to Foxboro and a date with the furious, out-for-blood Patriots.
3. Carolina: Utterly hornswaggled by the fraud that is Matt Moore (41 percent completions, four picks, eight sacks taken and a 41.8 passer rating after finishing last season winning four out of five games), the Panthers turn to rookie Jimmy Clausen as they move one step closer to bidding coach John Fox adieu. Who wants to take bets on whether or not Fox wishes he just left after last season?
4. St. Louis: The Rams looked more like their normal selves in an ugly, 16-14 loss to Oakland that wasn’t that close. No. 1 pick Sam Bradford has looked OK at quarterback but 210 total yards on offense along with allowing the Raiders to roll up 404 yards of their own just won’t do.
5. Dallas: Wow, the Cowboys look terrible and aren’t remotely living up to their ridiculously high expectations for a change. How shocking. Watching and reading about the Dallas hand-wringing following last week’s loss to the Bears has been comical as was owner/carnival barker Jerry Jones saying, “The best thing I can do right now is not knee-jerk. But I’m mad, I’m upset, I’m very frustrated and extremely disappointed.” This after two whole games. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the reason the Cowboys haven’t won anything in going on 15 years now is because of Jones himself and his inability to help himself from spouting nonsense like that. The day Jones steps back, gets out of the way, eliminates himself from the story, stops thinking he’s a coach and stays off the stupid sideline during every game and just generally lets the players play and the coaches coach without his larger than life specter looming over everything, the Cowboys may have a chance.
- Jahvid Best, Lions: Detroit is still a lost cause but rookie running back Best went absolutely off in a 35-32 loss to the Eagles, carrying the ball 17 times for 78 yards and two TDs while catching nine passes for a whopping 154 yards and another score. It seems odd to say given that the Lions have won just three of their last 42 games, but there may be some positive stuff going on at Ford Field.
- The Chiefs defense: In starting the year at a surprising 2-0, Kansas City has allowed just 28 points in two games and got an interception return for a TD from second-year corner Brandon Flowers in their 16-14 win at Cleveland last week. Hopefully the Chiefs, who were 30th in total defense last season, gave a game ball to new coordinator Romeo Crennel. Why don’t the Patriots get guys like that?
- LeSean McCoy, Eagles: It was against the Lions and their atrocious defense, but McCoy, in his second game as the heir to Eagles legend Brian Westbrook, rolled up 120 yards and three TDs on just 16 carries in Philly’s road win. With more performances like that, it won’t matter whether it’s Kolb, Vick or Reid himself playing QB.
- A.J. Smith, Chargers: San Diego’s GM won’t give star receiver Vincent Jackson a contract extension, got called by several teams who will and wanted to trade for him, wouldn’t back off his demand for a second and a third-round draft pick (an absolutely asinine asking price for a receiver in the final year of his contract) and wound up with nothing but a completely disgruntled player who they chose to not to have available until after Week 6 due to a rule in the collective bargaining agreement given that he refused their rather meager one-year offer. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that Jackson’s agent said Smith basically pissed all over every single offer that would have solved the problem for both Jackson and the team, then said, “no wonder most of the other GMs we dealt with referred to A.J. as ‘the lord of no rings.’” From what I’ve read, this isn’t unusual for Smith, who is apparently universally hated throughout the league by not just players and agents but other team executives, too. Surely, prospective NFL free agents are chomping at the bit to sign in San Diego now.
- BrettFavre, Vikings: Not only are the Vikings 0-2 with BrettFavre’s TD/INT ratio at 1/4 and BrettFavre’s passer rating at 56.1, but even ESPN, his house network, seems down on him. The jaws hit the floor the other night when Tom Jackson, one his most notorious shills (remember how brave he found BrettFavre for throwing the pick that cost the Vikings the Super Bowl last year?) examined his body language headed into the Metrodome last week before Minnesota’s game against Miami and declared BrettFavre to appear dour, disinterested and disappointing. Damn…
- Brandon Meriweather, Patriots: Meriweather, who played pretty much every down last year at free safety and (fraudulently) made the Pro Bowl, was benched for the second straight week against the Jets, then went on the radio on Monday and said he’s been struggling because “he tried a lot of new things,” in training camp and when the coaches to cease and desist and to just play, “instead of me stopping trying them and doing exactly what I was coached, I kept trying them.” He went on to blame himself for his demotion which was refreshing. But really? He was “trying new things,” then just kept on doing what he wasn’t supposed to do even after he was instructed specifically not to? I’ve never particularly liked Meriweather mostly because I’ve been under the impression that he’s a knucklehead. Now, I’m not under that impression, I’m absolutely certain of it.
Hey, you hear the one about the Jets wide receiver who blew twice the legal limit behind the wheel of his Range Rover at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning? Would you believe it was Braylon Edwards, the same Braylon Edwards who was arrested for assaulting a 130-pound dude outside a Cleveland club last season? The same Braylon Edwards who after picking a cherry off the top of Pats corner Darius Butler’s head for a TD last week got his team penalized 15 yards for taunting? I hope you’d believe it, because it’s true. One of the league’s most dependable idiots racked up another few points on the Idiot-o-Meter over the past week. But he didn’t even stop there. It wasn’t enough for Braylon to do all of this. Nor was enough for him to ignore the program set up by his own team to provide rides to shitfaced players in the middle of the night just like him, and get behind the wheel of his SUV anyway. Nor was it enough for him to remember that he was partying with former Pats receiver Donte Stallworth the night Stallworth drunk drove right into a pedestrian in a crosswalk down in Miami, killing the pedestrian and costing Stallworth jail time and a full season of his career. Nope, not our Braylon. The capper came on Wednesday in the Jets locker room when Braylon, taking questions about the incident and answering all of them without actually taking responsibility for the crime he committed, said, “I don’t really see how this is a black eye on the organization.”
Now I could take this in a couple of different directions. I could discuss the Jets plans to let Braylon play this week in a big division game against the Dolphins instead of suspending him (which is their right under the collective bargaining agreement of the league and was a decision that was as predictable as the sun rising in the east). Or I could rail against the league and the players union and demand that when they sit down to bang out their next CBA, they find a better way to allow the league to drop the hammer on guys like Braylon for his continuous, despicable behavior. But instead, I’ll just let the above paragraph speak for itself. All eight of you who read this column are intelligent, intuitive folks, I’m guessing. You don’t need me to tell you what a disgrace Braylon is. He can do that all by himself. I’m just grateful that in a week that the Jets forced the Patriots and all their fans to run home with their tails between their legs, they still managed to humiliate themselves in front of the entire football world once again. Our favorite loud mouth, the one and only Rex Ryan, said earlier in the week that all these off-field shenanigans need to stop and that he doesn’t want the Jets to be seen, thought of or talked about as “that team.”
Too late, Rex.